Just*in Time: Meth Use & HIV

Photo by Jessica Bolton

Do you ParTy? I get this question all the time on apps like Grindr, Jack’d, Scruff or Growlr. Okay, more on Grindr. But I have the same reply no matter what app the person hits me up on, “I’m not interested.” Don’t get me wrong, back in my twenties, Papa was a rolling stoned, young man.

Now I’m thirty-eight and I’m a little wiser and a less of a wild child. But I can say I’ve never ever tried meth and I have no intention to in the future. I can honestly say I don’t judge anyone who does meth, but I cannot give any part of myself to them. It’s not judgment, but I can’t trust the person on it. Being HIV-positive, I can only imagine how it interacts with one’s body. Instead of complaining about it, I’ve decided to educate myself and others on the detriments of meth to your HIV-positive body.

So, let’s first look at some basic information about meth. Meth is a shorter name for crystal methamphetamine (CM), also known as crystal meth. Meth is a highly addictive drug that is considered a stimulant. Meth can be injected, snorted, smoked, and/or swallowed. A lot of people insert it into their rectums as well. Meth is very inexpensive and can last as long as two days. For example, I knew of a man who drove high all the way from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., just because he wanted to meet a guy have sex and get more Meth.

Errors in judgment. Like a lot of drugs, meth lowers one’s inhibitions and ability to make sound decisions by impairing one’s judgment. When you’re high on meth, you are more likely to engage in riskier sex.

Dick soft? If you are a person with a penis, sometimes meth use is a cause of making your dick soft. Yeah, I said it. This can lead to people using erectile dysfunction medication on top of meth to stay hard. Your body might become dependent on the drug and the Viagra to stay hard for a longer period of time.

Bottoms up! Many people engage in bottoming when on crystal meth because they claim it feels better and they can take a bigger dick. Well, the ugly truth is that meth increases the risk for tissue tears in your ass because it causes mucosal dryness.

Sharing is not caring. When injecting meth, you do run the risk of transmitting HIV or other STIs like hepatitis C.

Hungry, bitch?! Meth reduces your appetite and weight. When you are HIV-positive it is important for you to eat. One, because it helps sustain nutrients in the body; two, your immune system needs fuel to fight off other infections; and, three, if you are on an anti-HIV treatment regimen, then you need to eat a certain number of calories with your HIV medication for it to be properly absorbed by your body.

Depression. Many people do drugs on a regular basis to try to get away from feelings of depression and isolation. When someone is on meth, they are not thinking about what in their life is causing their depression or isolation. After a binge of being high for days on end, the user is often faced with a pummeling by those same feelings.

Internal effects. Meth gives you a high chance of a stroke or heart attack, because of its effects on the heart. Meth increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

HIV into AIDS. Meth use accelerates HIV progression into an AIDS diagnosis. The National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project revealed the outcomes of a controlled study from the University of California, San Diego, that discovered an unswerving connection between meth and T-cell activation and proliferation in HIV-positive men. The study participants who did use the drug in the study showed a higher risk of cognitive impairment and a faster development into AIDS-defining illnesses.

Meth is a big problem in our community. But there are resources that can help you. In just about every major city there are rehabs/drug addiction treatment centers, and, if you don’t want to do that, then there are many support groups that focus on meth addiction. It is up to you if you want help or not. I’m nobody’s judge and I’m in no way trying to tell anyone how to live. Just know that if you engage in this activity, there are consequences. Your body is already fighting HIV, you don’t want it fighting against meth as well.

Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].